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It happens to me every single year. I start out the holiday season like Buddy the Elf. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. I love the lights, the coziness, stringing popcorn and cranberries. It’s all so beautiful and perfect. I think, This year I’ve got the holidays handled. I did some shopping in advance, my expectations for the season are in check, I’ve eliminated unnecessary, stressful traditions that no longer fit for my family.

Then, about a week into December, it happens. I hit the holiday wall. It’s usually the week that has something going on every single night. It also happens to coincide with the time when most of my middle school students and their parents seem to be reaching that point too. It’s when time runs out, money runs out, and patience runs out. Needles start dropping from the tree at a rate that is way too fast if we’re planning to keep it up until New Year’s Day. Lights randomly stop working, and the list of “one more thing” to do, to buy, to fit in seems never ending and impossible. I go from Buddy the Elf to Cindy Lou Who, wondering how the holidays has everyone, including myself, so discombobulated.

This week was that week for me. My husband is a musician and a middle school band director. Before we got married, I remember him saying that December is just one big red mark on the calendar for him. It’s true. Between concerts with his students and his participation in the local symphony orchestra, it is one booked month of concerts because everyone loves musical events over the holidays. I do, too, so I enjoy getting to participate in so many of these opportunities, so it frustrates me when I feel too busy to really enjoy it.

My daughter, her boyfriend, and her dog will be home from college and staying at our house for ten days over the holidays. I look forward to it so much, but there is also a lot of expense that comes with making that happen. Plane tickets, parking at the airport, and paying for a dog plane ticket too. I know that is “extra”, but I must get my grand-dog fix over the holidays. We are currently in the most expensive years of our lives (so far) because we are essentially paying for two households while my daughter is in college. We are trying to cash flow her college years, so she doesn’t have to start out in debt like we did after college. We’ve saved for this, but it is a stretch to make all the ends meet at this time. The good news is that she’ll graduate in May, and then we only have one more year of doing this while she does her certificate program for teaching next year. That’s right, a teaching degree takes five years in many cases, especially if you’re studying secondary education. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. We can do this, and she is working hard, and we are so proud of her.

Then, when I start feeling sorry for myself for how expensive and busy everything is, I feel guilty. Because I should just be feeling grateful. So many people have it so much tougher than I do. Some can’t afford a regular month, much less consider putting their child through college. How dare I feel sad about my situation? I should be more grateful. And I am. Some days I just need to stop for a minute and put things into perspective. That usually happens after I have my holiday meltdown. And then some sweet student brings me a plate of homemade cookies for Christmas, and I go right back to remembering how good I have it.

The good news is that usually after I have a holiday meltdown, all is much better. It’s like the relief that comes after a good cry. Usually, post meltdown, I can go back to enjoying the holiday season. So, cheers to all this Christmas. May your Christmas lights keep sparkling, your tree be forever green, and your holiday stress be fleeting, allowing you to enjoy the important things this holiday season.